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Subdesert mesite

Monias benschi

Photo by John C. Mittermeier (Flickr)

Common name:
subdesert mesite (en); mesita-de-Bensch (pt); mésite monias (fr); mesito monias (es); moniasstelzenralle (de)

Order Gruiformes
Family Mesitornithidae

This species is endemic to Madagascar, being found along a narrow coastal strip in the south-western part of the country between the Fiherenana and Mangoky rivers.

These birds are 30-32 cm long and weigh 110-170 g.

The subdesert mesite is found in dry tropical forests, with sandy soils and minimal herbaceous cover. They are present from sea level up to an altitude of 130 m.

They use their long curved bills to search for food among the forest litter, taking various invertebrates such as cockroaches, grasshoppers, caterpillars, beetles and millipedes. They also eat seeds and small fruits.

Subdesert mesites breed in August-January. They leave in groups of up to 9 birds, including several females and males who cooperate in nest building, incubation and feeding the young. Each group may build several nests, each consisting of a loosely woven platform of twigs adorned with lichens. In each nest they lay 1-2 whitish eggs with brown and grey speckles, which are incubated by both sexes for 2127 days. The chicks leave the nest within 24 hours of hatching but are defended and fed by the adults for several weeks.

IUCN status – VU (Vulnerable)
This species has a small breeding range and the global population is estimated at 98.000-152.000 individuals. The population is declining at a moderate rate of 20% over the last three generations, mostly due to ongoing habitat loss and degradation through forests clearance for slash-and-burn cultivation of maize and for charcoal production, and more locally for logging. Predation by dogs and trappers occurs, and introduced rats Rattus may also pose a threat to the subdesert mesite in some areas.

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